Alaska Governor Signs Law to Test all Rape Kits

For Immediate Release: July 8, 2019
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation, a national organization working to end the backlog of untested rape kits nationwide, today celebrated the inclusion of rape kit reform in HB49, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill signed by Governor Mike Dunleavy.

“Behind every rape kit is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “The rape kit backlog represents a failure of the criminal justice system to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. We can and must do better. When jurisdictions test every kit, they solve crimes, bring answers and a path to justice for survivors, take criminals off the streets, and exonerate the wrongly convicted.”

Championed by Representative Geran Tarr, HB49 requires law enforcement agencies to submit sexual assault kits to a laboratory for DNA analysis within 30 days of receipt. Law enforcement must then ensure that the submitted kit is tested within one year of receipt. Law enforcement must make a reasonable effort to notify the survivor that their kit has been tested within two weeks of testing. This legislation also requires the Alaska Department of Public Safety to include in their annual reports information regarding the number of kits determined ineligible for testing and the reasons the kits were determined to be ineligible. Additional significant reforms related to sexual assault and violence were also included in the omnibus.

Testing all rape kits not only makes communities safer, it can also save millions of dollars. According to researchers from Case Western Reserve University, testing just 4,300 previously unsubmitted kits in Cleveland saved $38.7 million, or $8,893 per tested sexual assault kit.

Joyful Heart has developed a national campaign to pass comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in all 50 states framed around six pillars for reform. With implementation of HB49, Alaska will have passed its fourth pillar of rape kit legislative reform. Learn more about efforts in the state at: http://www.endthebacklog.org/alaska.

“Rape kit reform in Alaska is the result of the steadfast dedication of local advocates and survivors in the state, and the determination of Rep. Tarr. We also thank the Alaska Department of Public Safety for their ongoing efforts to test backlogged kits, implement federal grants, and reshape policies on sexual assault. We are dedicated to continuing to work with champions in the state on additional reforms, including establishing in law a victims’ rights to know the status of their rape kit and rape kit tracking,” added Knecht.

Joyful Heart has created the premier national resource about the rape kit backlog, which includes an interactive map and resources for survivors, legislators, and the media. Learn more at: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever. www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

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